Giants players have grown exceedingly frustrated with the limitations of their offense under aging quarterback Eli Manning, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, believing he is no longer able to get the ball downfield and skeptical of his ability to alter that at this stage of his career.
The decision to pass on so many highly-regarded quarterbacks in recent drafts has become a bone of contention among many players, and ownership's unflappable loyalty to the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback is creating an unhealthy dynamic that has the Giants (1-5) already on the brink of another lost season by mid-October. Thursday night's atrocious outing – during which Manning again struggled to hit receivers in stride on even rudimentary screens and slants – resulted in more sideline outbursts.
"Let's just say a quarterback change wouldn't be unwelcome," said one source who has discussed the matter privately with several Giants players.
While Odell Beckham, Jr. was for his comments in an ESPN interview in Week 5, and several people close to Beckham admonished him for sitting down in that forum, the underlying reality is that when the superstar did not go out of his way to publicly support Manning, 37, or absolve him of blame for the Giants' shortcomings on offense, he was hardly just speaking for himself.
It is not lost on that locker room how creative and diverse and multiple other offenses are around the league, and the energy and athleticism that young quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold have provided to their teams. The Giants, meantime, have been in a downward spiral for years, with an overmatched-at-times offensive line certainly part of of the problem, but a larger philosophy that continues to try to prop up Manning late in his career
Had ownership gone through with their original plan to bench Manning late last season – with any playoff hopes long faded – rather than just play Geno Smith for one game and then turn the job right back to the veteran, much of this could have been avoided. Rookie Kyle Lauletta could take over at some point, making the leap from Richmond to the NFL, as, with the Giants potentially heading toward another top five pick, it will make sense to get a look at what they have at quarterback on their current roster before getting to 2019.
Manning makes $16M this season and is due $17M in 2019, though none of that is guaranteed. He would count a maximum of $6.2M in dead cap – depending on when he was released – and would provide a cap and cash savings of $17M if not on the Giants roster next season. It's difficult to imagine any scenario where he is back in New York next season at this point.